But climate change is also a challenge for which a capacity for global governance is nearly lacking. Global competition and narrow sovereign short-term economic interests have triumphed over a collective responsibility to our common future.
Can we as humans recognize the scale of peril that climate change presents and rally global capital for collective responsible action?
As we cross the 7 billion mark, the scale of the anthropocene as an era of catastrophic transformation becomes ever more worrying.
Providing food, fibre and shelter in a business as usual fashion will only make the planet hotter and leave a growing majority of hungrier in an inequitable and unstable world.
But through innovation we can nourish and cloth the world and heal the planet. It does not have to be a zero sum game.
What can (must) we achieve in Durban at COP17?
Agriculture: A Call to Action for COP17 Climate Change Negotiators
Our world faces formidable challenges. The global population has now crossed the seven billion mark and is projected to reach nine billion by mid-century, requiring at least a 70 percent increase in agricultural production to meet increased demand.
The world's resources are under more strain than ever before as global demand for water, energy and food is on the rise. At the same time, climate change threatens farmers' ability to produce enough to meet growing demand, and poor communities' ability to access nutritious food.
More frequent and extreme weather events are affecting our food supply, our infrastructure and our livelihoods. Last year, Russia suffered its worst drought in more than 100 years, triggering forest fires and destroying millions of hectares of crops. This year we have seen the Horn of Africa face its worst drought in 60 years as more than 13 million people requiring emergency food aid and pastoralists losing a third of their livestock. Recent flooding in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Cambodia has also impacted livelihoods and worsened food insecurity.
The most vulnerable regions of the world – developing countries – are disproportionately affected by climate change, despite contributing little to carbon emissions. People in developing countries depend heavily on agriculture for their livelihoods, yet are increasingly challenged in their ability to produce sufficient food for their families and for markets.
Whilst agriculture is a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, it has significant potential to be part of the solution to climate change. Preserving and enhancing food security requires increasing agricultural productivity whilst at the time adapting to and mitigating climate change. It also requires a shift towards building farmers' and vulnerable communities' resilience to climate shocks, and related food price volatility.
More productive, sustainable and resilient agriculture requires transformations in how rural people manage natural resources and how efficiently they use these resources as inputs for crop production. For these transformations to occur, it is essential that the world's farmers, scientists, researchers, the private sector, development practitioners and food consumers come together to achieve climate-smart agriculture.
Yet the agricultural sector remains astonishingly underfunded. As a percentage of total investment, agriculture has dropped from 22 percent in 1980 to approximately 6 percent today. In absolute terms, this constitutes a drop to roughly half of the funding allocated thirty years ago.
At the upcoming climate change negotiations in Durban, we call on negotiators to recognise the important role of agriculture in addressing climate change so that a new era of agricultural innovation and knowledge sharing can be achieved. Specifically, we ask that they approve a Work Programme for agriculture under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) so that the sector can take early action to determine the long-term investments needed to transform agriculture to meet future challenges.
• UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
• UN World Food Programme (WFP)
• International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
• The World Bank
• CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)
• Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU)
• International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
• Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR)
• Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)
• World Farmers' Organisation (WFO)
• Global Donor Platform for Rural Development
• ACP/EU Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA)
• Farming First
• Danish Agriculture and Food Council
• Agriculture for Impact
• International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA)
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